Costa Rica, a Green Paradise in Danger | Full Documentary
With its tropical climate and endless forest and the ocean as a horizon, Costa Rica has been for some years the number one destination for nature lovers. They travel thousands of miles and come from all over the world to spend a few days of vacation here. Rosalie and her friend, Asa, have been dreaming of this trip for a year and they are very touched, because they are about to have a unique experience. - It is half past noon, we can go and listen to this in the village. - If not, there is acroyoga. - Is that okay? - Okay, let's go.
- In this jungle of Central America, they came to participate to a big hippie gathering. Once a year, for one week, there are more than 10,000 people to meet here to get together and reach the ultimate ecstasy. - I'm really happy to be here. It's a great place. We are all blessed, I like you guys.
- There is a lot of love, beauty, and life. We're all here together. - Just arrived, the yoga and mystical music for the two French girls. Asa, the professional dancer, and Rosalie, a humanitarian executive, get into the groove. - It feels like...
calm, composed, and present at the same time. - Yes. - The energy is there. - In this new-age atmosphere, the two friends are in their own element.
Here, all the participants chose a green lifestyle pushed to the absolute limit. For the materials of the cabins, only wood is allowed. For the bathroom, it's not free and it's timed.
No more than five minutes per person. In the infirmary, Asa and Rosalie can find 100% natural remedies. - This is aloe vera. I put it on on my skin burns. I'm a little red, it makes me feel better.
That's cool. - It is this return to their roots that the two came to look for in Costa Rica. A pioneer country in terms of ecology for 30 years. - There is a real desire to make people aware of the importance and richness of natural resources. - To spend a week in this particular environment, it is recommended to count 600 euros, including camping. - You smell so good, come here.
- Steven Brooks organizes this great gathering every year. If this 53-year-old American fell in love with Costa Rica, that is not by chance. The country abolished its army 70 years ago to avoid a military coup. Hippie at heart, the American was charmed. - Hi Steven, how are you doing? - He then decides to build his new world. A community of sharing in disruption with the consumer society.
- We want people to have a unique experience. Something they have never experienced before. That way, when they go home, they will change their way of life.
We are really living differently. People feel supported, they help and love each other. - Here, Steven Brooks is considered as a spiritual guide. If he's that popular, it is because he has found the key to guaranteed success. For their first evening, this is the moment Asa and Rosalie have been waiting for. The twilight gives the kick-off of a huge rave party where all eccentricities are allowed.
A kind of Burning Man dream beach version. The two French women are not disappointed with the trip. - It's the sunset. These are the last hours of the day. Everyone is on the beach, we dance, we party.
- Until dusk, the two friends and all the participants are engaged in all kinds of games and dances in a crazy atmosphere. Just one word of advice, let it go. - It's a bit unique, it's magical.
All you need is a sun, a sea and people. It's the simplicity of seeing everyone be amazed by it. It's fantastic. - Asa and Rosalie are mesmerized. Thanks to this kind of event, Costa Rica is in the process of becoming the new home for hippies from all over the world.
The country has many other assets. Designated a champion of the Earth by the UN in 2019, this Central American country has achieved a remarkable feat, double its forest area in less than 30 years. It had been almost razed to the ground to make way for intensive agriculture through a reforestation plan. Today, it covers half of its surface area.
This feat makes Costa Rica one of the first of the class on the podium of world ecology. A source of pride for its young president, Carlos Alvarado. - I am proud that my country has been rewarded for the efforts and work we do in the field of ecology. - Between the Caribbean Sea and the Pacific Ocean, Costa Rica, the rich coast in French, is, as its name implies, one of the richest countries in Central America. Half of its five million inhabitants live in San José, the capital.
The millions of tourists who pass by every year don't usually stop there. They come mainly to Costa Rica for the nature, one of the most well preserved in the world. It is the main resource of the country.
- Nature is our "green gold". - Some of them travel in a van to live some extreme experiences. Others travel across the world to get married in these breathtaking sceneries. - It is paradise in every possible sense of the word. - Everyone spends their vacations here under the sign of the "Pura Vida", the country's currency. It means living cool and enjoying every moment.
In Costa Rica, some tourists put their lives at risk during secret spiritual retreats where they consume a drug that is only allowed here. - I don't feel very well. As if my brain had been reset. - Behind its eco-friendly image, is Costa Rica really the greenest country on earth? Not sure. Its agriculture, one of the main local resources, is now a controversial issue.
- You can't go back. - Costa Rica is the nation that uses the most pesticides in the world per cultivated hectare. In particular to grow pineapples of which it is the first world producer. The consequences can be terrible for the plantation workers. - Look, I'm losing my nails, it's painful.
- How did Costa Rica become the most popular tourist destination? Is this green paradise really preserved? Investigation of one of the most beautiful gardens of Eden on the planet. On the Pacific coast, in the early morning. - It's so beautiful! If I could wake up like that every morning with this little sound.
The sound of the waves, the wind and everything. - Laura and Raphaëlle discover this wild scenery for the first time. These two 28 years old women from Lyon parked their van here suddenly, last night. They are part of the 70,000 French people who visit the country every year. - This happiness! I love it! - These bohemian vacations, they have been preparing for years. They have saved 1,800 euros each to travel the country for three weeks, plane tickets included.
- I want to experience this everyday. It's too beautiful. The sand under your feet, the waves, and then, all the fauna and the flora that we have around us. It's just amazing. - On board their van, the comfort is minimal.
A double mattress in the back and a kitchen area at the level of the trunk. - Shall I make you four? - Yes, you can. - For these two friends, this means of transport is the best way to enjoy these wonderful landscapes and 1300 kilometers of wild coastline. What they don't know, is that these beaches are the hunting ground of a terrifying fauna. These local surfers will quickly warn them of the danger.
- When the tide goes down, you can see the crocodiles in the water. You must be careful and never swim alone. That's very dangerous. - These aquatic monsters go down the rivers to come and catch the fish in the ocean.
Swimming seems more complicated than expected. - Are you going for a swim? - I am afraid of the crocodiles. - I am always a little bit afraid. - Laura and Raphaëlle came to get the most out of the thrills.
In Costa Rica, they will be served. - Come on, go! - The country is a paradise for extreme sports lovers. Surfing, kayaking, canyoning. Even better, in the heart of the forest. This immense reserve shelters a unique attraction. A huge tree climbing course with one of the longest zip lines in the world.
1600 meters of descent above the canopy. Thrills and chills guaranteed. A challenge for the two adventurers. - Ok. With all the equipment, I feel like, it's getting more and more intense.
I'm excited at the same time, I can't wait to find out what it's going to be like. Above all, I don't know if there are animals in the jungle. This is going to be amazing. - For the two young women, the tension rises a notch. They will be slung 50 meters above the trees.
- I am ready. I am ready. - A breathtaking minute of flying at more than 100 kilometers per hour above the forest.
On arrival, the two friends can't believe it. - "Pura Vida!" - Yes! - Have you experienced these sensations? You see the trees, you have the feeling to enter the forest when you arrive. - When you arrive, you have this feeling of climbing into the trees. Is that it? - It's not over yet. Final test, an even more terrifying attraction.
The jump of Tarzan hanging on a liana. 50 meters of free fall. - Oh my God! I get chills all over my body. I'm starting to get goosebumps. My hair is standing up.
- This time, Raphaëlle is absolutely terrified. - I think I'm going to cry. - Under Laura's encouragement... - You can do it, Raph.
- She takes courage with both hands. - I don't think about anything. I don't think about anything. - She throws herself into the air. After the great thrill, the great adventure. Costa Rica alone has 6% of the world's biodiversity.
There are 169 protected areas across the country. A quarter of the territory. One of the most visited area is in the North. 70,000 hectares of mangrove, known as the small Amazon, accessible only by boat or small propeller plane. More than 1000 species of wild animals live there peacefully. - Come on, let's go.
- To explore this earthly paradise, Laura and Raphaëlle called for Willis. - Go ahead, be careful, please. - This guide has been working here for 30 years. He knows mangroves like the back of his hand.
A few strokes of the paddle and already a first animal. - Look there, straight ahead, under the leaves. It looks like a gray ball. In fact, he is lazy. - Yes, I see it. - It's moving. Look, he's scratching himself.
- I can see it. - The lazy guy, This mammal, reputed to be the slowest in the world, is the country's mascot. Endangered of extinction, it is totally protected here. For the two young women, It is a unique opportunity to see it in its natural environment. - Now you can see it. - It's just the beginning.
A coati. A water turtle. A caiman. Only rare terrestrial and aquatic animals, often impossible to approach.
Here, French women are a few centimeters away from them. - I am not reassured because we are within arm's reach of the Caiman. - In a few hours, Laura and Raphaëlle will make multiple encounters. Even the most unusual ones. Like these howler monkeys. - It really looks like humans, monkeys.
- You should never stay under monkeys. They can poop or pee on you. Always shut your mouth when you are under the monkeys. - They're letting go.
No toilets for wild animals. - The two young women appreciate the immense privilege they have, rubbing shoulders with these animals in the wild. Costa Rica has made it its trademark. There is no zoo here, they are forbidden. That's what I like about it. Laura and Raphaëlle feel like explorers.
- We have a feeling of being alone in the world, lost in the middle of this forest. Discover this natural environment all by yourself, It's a privilege. - We're not in a zoo, we are in a wild national natural park. So, you have to know how to remain humble and accept not always seeing what we want to see. When we see them, they are wild and that is priceless. - They owe this show to the strict rules imposed by the State to protect the ecosystem.
Only 1% of the national park is open to visitors. Tourists enter at a low rate, only a few hours a day. - This nature is our green gold.
This heritage must be preserved and protected. - This model, the opposite of mass tourism, is what Willis is proud of. It is also what allows him to live, he and the 1500 inhabitants of his village, Tortuguero.
- Hello, welcome. - Before the park opened, 50 years ago, all lived in misery. Today, this remote area attracts 150,000 visitors every year.
Restaurants, food shops, everyone benefits from green gold. - Hi, how are you? - Willis and all the villagers like Milton, the souvenir seller no longer swear by it. - I can earn between 8 and 40 euros per day. Tourism, is the DNA of Tortuguero. If we didn't have it, we wouldn't exist. See you later.
- Since the 80's, Costa Rica understands before all the world that ecology can can bring a lot of money. Reforestation, but also development of renewable energies. The country produces almost all of its electricity from geothermal energy, wind or solar. A successful policy. Nature lovers are arriving from all over the world today and some people come for radical experiences. On the edge of the Pacific Ocean.
This property in the middle of tropical forest has been home for several years a fitness center that's a bit unusual. They practice a mix of shamanism, of yoga and relaxation through massage. - Take a deep breath. Release.
- The owner is Darren Mack Bratney. This American is the self-proclaimed therapist of the hard fringe of the hippie movement in Costa Rica. This morning, he is organizing a strange gardening session for his customers. Everyone comes here for a plant that is all the rage in this community.
- Grab a pot and do it like that. The medicine is its roots. - This shrub is the iboga. An African medicinal plant known for its hallucinogenic properties.
So dangerous that it is classified as a narcotic drug in Europe and the United States. Costa Rica is one of the few countries in the world to allow its consumption. - This medicinal plant is the most powerful in the world. When you absorb it, it's like doing five years of psychoanalysis in one evening. It reprograms your body since the day you were born.
- These therapeutic effects have never been recognized by scientists, but Darren is a firm believer. For 20 years, he has made it his business. Dozens of tourists pay more than 4,000 euros every year to treat themselves a week of supposedly miraculous treatment. - This is a good place to plant. - Among them, Cash, Magdalena and Candy.
These three friends who came all the way from England are looking for well-being. Their initiation begins with the planting of young shrubs, but the gardening part is gradually turning into witchcraft. - It's a sacred ceremony. - Candy brought her grigris and a very surprising fertilizer. - Her own blood.
- It's my last period. I collected them to give to Earth. It's an offering to Mother Nature.
Thanks for everything. Thank you for this great experience and all that you provide for us. -In a few hours, Candy and her friends are going to consume iboga and have a confusing experience.
Before, a conditioning. Attendees should get rid of their clothes and paint your body and face. - It is a return to the roots, a return to the essential. That's what iboga gives you. It reveals your true nature. - Direction of this sauna typical of the Amerindian people.
It is heated thanks to its large stones that have been plunged into the fire. Inside, the temperature jumps to 90 degrees. The group invokes spirits and sings shamanic choruses. - It's crazy, man. You sweat so much, you get rid of your impurities. We sang tribal songs as if we had gone back hundreds of centuries.
- I've never done anything like that. It's as if we were in a parallel world. - Tourists are now ready for the long-awaited ceremony. They're going to spend the night on these mattresses. Before we start, they have to drive out the evil spirits with incense. Darren, the guru, comes to reassure them before the big leap into the unknown.
- Good night, I'll be next door if you need help. - Everyone absorbs these little pills that contain iboga. Its consumption has already caused the death of dozens of followers in the world. Deaths caused by respiratory arrests. Nothing to scare the participants. Only Magdalena begins a prayer to give herself courage.
- I'm stressed right now. - What are you afraid of? - My demons. I am afraid of my demons. - I don't know what's going to happen to me.
I want to go on this trip with a child's soul and a warrior's spirit. - Little by little, the plant will plunge them in a state of semi-consciousness. At Darren's request, we film discreetly.
- It's no small thing what they are doing. If you disturb them during this process, It can be very disturbing for their minds and it's not not good for their health. - In truth, what he doesn't want to show, are the dreaded effects of iboga.
Even when you don't die from it, the plant can cause epileptic seizures, Paralysis and even syncope. All night long, the participants are going to be haunted through mystical visions and hallucinations. Most of them go back and forth to the bathroom to vomit. These intense scenes will be repeated...
until early morning. Twelve hours after swallowing the pills, The three English are still under the influence of drugs. - I don't feel well today. It's like my brain has been reset. I don't quite understand what's going on.
It's crazy. I was very sick. - Candy, she is convinced that she has communicated with the Holy Spirit. - I surfed on the Milky Way.
I went to the moon. Hundreds of shooting stars fell on me. God exists, I am sure of it. 1,000%. As for Magdalena, still in shock, she does not want to share her experience.
In France, these self-improvement seminars are doomed by the authorities who describe them as sectarian. Here, the state prefers to close its eyes. A dozen centers, like Darren's have seen the light of day in recent years. Jungle, dream beaches, and even volcano.
Costa Rica alone offers a variety of spectacular settings. These landscapes don't only attract adventurers or hippies. In 20 years, the country has also become the paradise for lovers. Tourists who travel thousands of kilometers to get married here.
Anya and her fiancé Howie are New Yorkers. They are going to celebrate their union in a few hours on the beach. Before that, they offer themselves an amazing photo session in a suit and wedding dress in the middle of the jungle. - Hello, are you all right? Delighted to see you. I hope you're in good health. - To get these glamorous shots, the two lovers called on Thomas.
This photographer is French and has lived in the country for 17 years. He made this wild nature and preserved his business. - Look at me and hug yourself. - Thomas photographs no less than 50 weddings a year.
A business that is booming in Costa Rica. - Now we have Americans. Those were Dutch people. We also had French people and Quebecers, who are therefore French-speaking. We have Poles who have come. - To attract his customers of the day, the Frenchman pulls out all the stops. He knows the right locations.
However, in Costa Rica, you deserve to take a good photo. - Is it okay if I sit there? - Perched at a height of two meters, the couple is not very comfortable. - He has vertigo. - No, it's good. I am strong.
- Make her laugh. She's a bit scared. I add a bit of risk inside, it adds a bit of spice, It's quite interesting. A little bit of stress, a little bit of happiness. They are in Costa Rica.
- That photo, the future spouses will never forget it. - It will prove to our children that we were adventurers and that we liked risks. However, they will not be allowed to do these types of activities. - Come on, we're crossing the river. - The photo session gradually takes on of a wild expedition and Thomas will push lovers to their limits.
His idea, Photographing them in the water, fully clothed. - It's really an adventure. - Anya can say goodbye to her beautiful dress.
The last detail that wasn't expected, these mojarras. Small fish that appear to be harmless. - There are plenty of fish. - They come to say hello to you. However, they will quickly go on the attack. - They bit me.
- This species doesn't like to be disturbed and it knows how to defend its territory. - Did they bite you? Ok, we stop, we go. - Anya has had enough. It is time to return to mainland to prepare for the big ceremony. Lovers rented this huge property by the ocean with pool and private golf. They paid 35,000 euros to treat themselves for their wedding dream.
It's not cheap. But at home, in the United States, they would have paid at least three times as much for the same standard. That's also what makes Costa Rica a favorite destination for many Americans. - I've been here twenty times, there's always something new to see. New people to have a good time with, it's unbelievable. When I leave, I feel sad.
- It's nice to talk about my country like that. - I think it's honest. - Thanks. - Now let's get to the big moments they've been waiting for so long.
The ceremony takes place on this beach, facing the Pacific Ocean. Jewish New Yorkers, they met their whole family there. - The little guy from New York that I am, will marry the woman of his dreams. We've been through a lot together, but the real adventure starts now.
- I promise to always be by your side and to be faithful to you. It doesn't matter what life throws at us. Today I give you my heart as your wife. - This moment of grace, Anya and Howie have been dreaming about it for years. Thomas multiplies the photos so that they remain engraved forever in their memory.
- It's magnificent. The white sand, the ocean, the sunset. What more could you ask for? - It really is paradise in every sense of the word. - Like Anya and Howie, 170,000 foreigners choose Costa Rica every year as a wedding destination.
With its lush nature, its five-star hotels and its sumptuous villas, the country has succeeded in reconciling tourism and sustainable development. However, in Costa Rica, there are still exceptions. Remains of an era where the watchword was not yet ecology.
Some places where mass tourism has developed with serious consequences for the environment. Like Jacó, a seaside resort in the south of the country, much appreciated by North American vacationers. Here, no rainforests, but fast food, souvenir shops and tourist buses. The city was transformed into Little California with Costa Rican sauce.
- It's cool here, we eat well, the beer is good, the people are nice. - Is it like home? - Yes, it feels like home here. - We're right next to the beach.
We're relaxing, it's cool. - Every year, 300,000 vacationers arrive in this city of 10,000 inhabitants. A bargain for retailers. These tourists are also responsible for the pollution of seawater. Victor Arce, one of the leaders of the environmental struggle in Costa Rica is angry.
With his wife Carla and his nephew Hector, he regularly comes to surf on this beach. However, scientific studies have shown that these waters contain a very high level of human excrement. - Jacó's water, it looks clean like that, but in fact, it's contaminated. A lot of fecal residue was found inside. - Do you surf through feces? - I try not to think about it too much, but it's deplorable. We really need to protect our beaches.
- The cause is the inadequacy of the wastewater treatment system. In some places, The sewers lead directly into this river that flows into the ocean. This waste water is full of excrement, but also household products from hotels and nearby shops. The poorest come and wash there, at the risk of being contaminated by bacteria. - Look, there it is. Do you see the water falling? You see, it's a whitish color.
It smells really bad. - However, the authorities reacted. They built a few wastewater treatment plants. However, due to the tourist boom, they were quickly overtaken. - It is a direct consequence of mass tourism. Nothing has been planned.
Jacó developed like a big city, but without the health infrastructures that should go with it. - It's not the only subject that scandals Victor. Four years ago, the government committed to ban by 2021 single-use plastic objects, like bags, straws, or bottles.
For the time being, we are far from the account. All you have to do is go to a supermarket in this seaside resort to see for yourself. - Plastic, plastic, plastic packaging, plastic. - Here, it is everywhere. - All bottles are plastic.
- The observation is unequivocal. When shopping, the environmentalist has to deal with it. Why do you buy them if they're plastic? - Do you see an alternative? There are no other options. What can I do? Am I not eating? Plastic is all around us. I have to eat, right?
- If he's disgusted, It's because he knows that part of his packaging is going to end up in the ocean and further pollute the beaches of Jacó. So, to save his city's ecosystem, Victor decided to roll up his sleeves. He created an association of ecological surfers. Once a week, They clean up the dirtiest beaches in the region.
- Look guys, there's a good bunch of them. Two bottles, three bottles, a washing machine block, a shoe, a deodorant, it's heartbreaking. - Surfers who are used to the area generally lend a hand. - Where did you find this? - It was on the beach.
- Yes, as usual. - These are bicycle or motorcycle tires. People throw them into the sea and the current brings back all the garbage. - In Costa Rica, the selective sorting has been mandatory for 10 years.
- Five, ten, fifteen, twenty-five. In my opinion, we collected at least 45 kilos today. Victor and all the volunteers who help him, remove every year, nearly seven tons of trash on the beaches.
In Costa Rica, When it comes to ecology, things are even more serious. The other major environmental challenge is intensive agriculture. Coffee, bananas or even pineapples.
These crops are cultivated in huge fields. and they make big money. Pineapple alone generates $1 billion in revenue every year.
Costa Rica is the world's largest exporter. Most of the ones that can be found in France in supermarkets come from here. - That's our best typical local fruit, our treasure, it is excellent. I get fresh ones every day. - Except that the good story ends there.
Because to produce so many pineapples, There is no miracle. The country is the largest user of pesticides in the world per cultivated hectare. On average six times more than in France. An incredible achievement for this nation that places ecology above all else.
The impact on the environment and the health of the inhabitants is disastrous. In the small village of Paco Arreto, in the north of the country, Karen can't sleep at night anymore. - Look, the yellow plane is coming back. - Every day, in front of her house, she goes to the same aerial ballet. This plane is spreading pesticides on the plantations located next to her house.
- They arrive through there and fly over the houses. The wind is bringing poison back to us. - The mother of the family is totally surrounded. All around her house, fields as far as the eye can see, all fed with pesticides. Karen is convinced that it was her chemicals that made her sick. She has bone cancer.
She was diagnosed four years ago. She is undergoing oral chemotherapy and struggles every day to survive. - I am very tired, I'm sweating a lot and I have pain all over my body, especially my bones. At night, I wake up in pain to take my medication. It's very hard.
- Impossible to establish with the cause and effect relationship between these pesticides and her cancer. Karen is sure of herself. The mother of a family points to the pineapple crops right behind her house. For years, She washed herself in this river that borders the fields. She then noticed that the pesticides used were pouring into it.
- I think I've been infected by chemicals from the pineapple plantation. There are no other possible explanations. Even my doctor told me that. - Karen did not file a complaint, because she can't afford a lawyer.
Before the illness, she was a cleaner. Today, she no longer works and survives with her six children with a state allowance, 130 euros per month six times less than the average salary in Costa Rica. Thankfully, Etel, her son, is helping her out. He is a salesman in a clothing store. - What did you bring? - Chicken. - Thanks. Come and let me kiss you, my son.
Thanks. - I think about her illness all the time. Every day I wonder if my mom will be with us the next day. It is very hard. - With his meager income, The family knows that it does not weigh much against multinationals in the sector. In Costa Rica, several companies share the juicy pineapple business.
Almost all of them use pesticides. This is what one of the workers, who works on one of the plantations, admits. - Hello.
- In these fields, journalists are not welcome. We film on a hidden camera, without revealing our identity. What is in this cistern? - Chemicals, insecticides and fertilizers. Put the product here. This is to make the plant grow faster. - Among the products that are widely used, some are prohibited in Europe.
A farm worker has agreed to show us the damage they can cause. He has only worked on a plantation for two years and he is already a victim of it. I've lost my nails by handling herbicides in pineapple fields. They fell a year ago. They came off, I bled and it hurt a lot. Look, you can see the blood underneath.
Now people are always looking at my hands. They see that I am different. So I walk with my clenched fist, I feel ashamed and depressed.
- When he handles these pesticides, they wear gloves, but they weren't enough to protect his hands. His case is not isolated. According to the unions, dozens of other workers would have health problems.
Why do farmers in Costa Rica use so much pesticides to grow pineapple? We wanted to ask them the question, but most of them refused our camera. - You are not allowed to go home. - Who told you that? - The owners. - Only one boss agreed to speak to us by phone. He is European and has a large plantation in Costa Rica. According to him, to ensure good returns, pesticides are necessary in this hot and humid country.
- Produce pineapple on a large scale, without chemicals, It's impossible. These are tropical countries, everything grows, mushrooms also grow faster. Then you have to protect yourself from insects, so you have to have insecticides. In Costa Rica, if you don't put it in, you lose 99% of production. There is no secret. - Today in Costa Rica, only 3% of pineapple production is organic.
A drop of water in this juicy business. Karen may see tank trucks for a long time turn around her house. Since she developed cancer, she put herself in God's hands.
In the evenings, she goes to the village church to find some comfort. - Hi Karen. How is it going? - She is one of the most assiduous parishioners. Her faith, Baptist, she hopes will help save her.
- God can do great miracles. When I was in intensive care, he helped me survive. - Karen continues to take her medication.
For the moment, her health is stable. Like her, pesticide patients remain invisible. Today, the state still doesn't recognize the link between their pathology and the massive use of chemicals. When it comes to protecting the environment, However, the authorities are capable of small miracles and they are ready to use the hard way. At the other end of the country, A team of Rangers is preparing for an unusual mission. These specially equipped men are from the environmental police.
- It's an Uzi and a semi-automatic pistol. He fires 600 rounds per minute and we have 20 bullet magazines. - Their leader is this woman.
Her name is Yemi. If she and her men are armed to the teeth, It's not for a hard raid in a red-light district. - Good evening.
- It's to protect prestigious guests who land on the beaches of Costa Rica once a year. Sea turtles. Each year they come back to lay their eggs where they were born.
At times, there can be more than a million of them piled up. It's everywhere on every square meter. They step on each other, there are so many of them. This phenomenon, which is almost unique in the world, is called the arribada, The big arrival.
Every year amazed tourists come to enjoy this breathtaking spectacle. - It's an incredible experience. I am 63 years old, I came here to see this, to attend an arribada. - It's unreal. I dreamed of that for years. - Do you like children? - Yemi and his men watch tourists from the corner of their eyes.
If they are there, it is especially for the poachers who try to collect the eggs of turtles because they are threatened with extinction. - Good morning, gentlemen. - Yemi has just spotted two suspects. - Please come over here. You need to get off the beach. I don't want to see you here.
Please. Now you need to get out. - The policewoman knows these two men well. - In the past, they've already stolen eggs. As a result, they are forbidden to come to this beach. They were judged by a court.
- They face up to three years in prison if they are caught with their hands in the bag. There are candidates though, because eating turtle eggs, It's a local tradition. Here, all you have to do is bend down to pick it up with a shovel.
This beach is seven kilometers long. Yemi recognizes that she cannot control everything. - There are lots of accesses like this. That is a street.
Thieves pass by to poach quietly. We have houses that face directly onto the beach, so it's easy to get to. - Poachers are generally most active at night. One of them agreed to let us follow him on his egg hunt. We'll call him Antonio.
He has been poaching here for about fifteen years. - People ask me for eggs. So I am poaching. It gives me pocket money, that's good. - To avoid being spotted by the Rangers, Antonio asks us to film without light with an infrared camera.
As soon as I arrived on the beach, By feeling the sand with his feet, he already spots a first nest. - It's easy, but you have to go quickly. There are guards everywhere. All right, those are good.
There are guards there, I saw a light. We have to go now. In less than five minutes, Antonio harvested twenty eggs. He leaves to deliver them to a regular customer so as not to have too much on him in case of an inspection. - Mom. There are eggs, take them.
- They're great. It's good. Here, take that. - Ok, that's good. Come on, I have to go. - For this first bag, Antonio just won two euros.
It may seem thin, but it's just the beginning. - Some evenings, I can make 45 euros thanks to smuggling. I don't think about turtles.
With that, I'll be able to buy myself a drink. That's all that matters. The turtle is my bread and butter. That's all that matters.
The rest I don't care. - In this country where the inhabitants earn only twenty euros a day, Turtle egg trafficking is good business. To break this parallel trade, the authorities have found another rather surprising remedy. The next morning, 10 am, in broad daylight, in plain sight, Local residents will also cross the red line and collect the precious turtle eggs. - First, we search with our tiptoes. Then, you touch the sand with your heel.
That's it, I felt something. We're going to watch. It may seem surprising, except that they have every right to collect and sell these eggs.
Don Jeremias and his friends are part of an association with an exclusive license granted by the State. - You have to dig to get to the bottom. That's where it's the freshest, and the eggs are fresher too. I am rarely wrong, I have become a champion at finding eggs. I'm going to show you how to eat them here.
Like that, nature. It's very good, It gives strength, it is a blessing from God. - The collection takes place about ten days a year. All members of the association are invited and the number of eggs collected is limited.
It's a unique situation in Costa Rica. The aim is to enable the inhabitants to perpetuate their ancestral traditions, but above all to break the black market by selling them at low prices. - Great girls, it's full, there are a lot of them this year. - Hélène is a biologist. She endorses this pickup, because it doesn't affect the development of the species.
In fact, during the Arribadas, There are many turtles that they lay eggs on top of each other and destroy their own eggs themselves. A lot of eggs are laid. As a result, some of them died, crushed.
An arribada can last 15 days. The turtles that arrive last crush the eggs of the first. It's the same thing every time and we lose all that.
For members of the association, it is also very advantageous. The money from the sale of eggs is redistributed to them. A few hundred per year for each person. Today, on this beach, Turtle births are constantly increasing.
A show that changes every time, Don Jeremias. - Look! She has just been born. Poor girl, we help her get out of the hole. She can't do it. If she stays there, The other mom is going to smash her unintentionally. It happens all the time.
She was lucky, this little turtle. When I see babies reaching the water, it means so much to me. It makes my heart very warm. We, men, should be inspired by that. They are so innocent.
It's a very fragile balance. You have to be careful with it. - On average, only one turtle out of 1000 that is born here reaches adulthood. Like all the others, If it survives, it will return to lay eggs in Costa Rica in ten years. Thanks to the efforts of the State and of all the inhabitants, The country has now become a refuge for more than a dozen species on the verge of extinction.